by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Countess Elizabeth Bathory (Wikipedia entry) was a Hungarian noblewoman who was almost a precise contemporary of Shakespeare (Bathory: 1560-1614; Shakespeare: 1564-1616). According to common legend, she was a monster. The Guinness Book of Records, for example, credits her as the top female serial killer of all time. Some place her body count as high as 650, and nobody attributes fewer than 36 deaths to her cruel hands. The most horrific legends, which have no basis in evidence as far as I can determine, picture her bathing in the blood of virgins in order to remain perennially young. Popular myth snowballed her reputation as it did for that of Vlad Dracul, so folklore had already transmogrified her into an ogress before our time. The B movies of the 20th century completed the metamorphoses of Bathory and Dracul into the Count and Countess of blood.

There is, or at least there ought to be, some distinction drawn between the two cases. Vlad Dracul was not Dracula, but he was an extremely cruel and arbitrarily unpleasant man, so there was plenty of justification for his demonic reputation. It's not really so clear that Countess Bathory was really evil. It is the premise of this film that the countess was framed by rival nobles and Catholic clerics who wanted to grab some chunks of her vast estates. That may be partially or even entirely true. After 400 years, it's not really possible to sort out the accusations and counter-accusations to determine where the legends end and the facts begin. The countess was indeed a very rich widow whose land holdings were envied by all. It was indeed a time when Catholics and Protestants slaughtered one another in God's name, and she was the country's most powerful Protestant, so it is not surprising to hear that she was accused of blasphemy. Accusing someone of sacrilegious or blasphemous behavior in those days was like accusing someone of being a communist in the 1950s - a convenient way to get an enemy out of the way. Although there was some evidence presented against her and her servants, it was not unheard of in those days for investigators to extract evidence out of thin air with bribes, intimidation and torture. It is possible that every single accusation against her is invalid. And don't forget, some of the most wild-eyed accusations against her were made by people who believed in vampires and thought that cancer could be cured with leeches.

In other words, the film's general aspiration - to debunk the grisliest of the Bathory legends - has merit. The film's specific treatment, however, is just ridiculous. Instead of debunking the legend with common sense and verifiable facts, it supplants it with another legend which is even more preposterous. The new myth involves a witch with miraculous herbs, and some roller-skating monks with anachronistically advanced scientific gizmos. To make matters worse, the script presents some scenes which seem to confirm the dark Bathory legends, only to turn around and reveal those actions to be either something she did while under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs, or something she imagined while in the grip of those drugs. Or not. The script also assigns the countess a long-term romance in Slovakia with the artist Caravaggio who, to the best of my knowledge, never left the territory which now forms the modern country of Italy, except for one trip to Malta. And then there is the fact that the historical Caravaggio didn't seem to like girls. On the other hand, none of the love story's authenticity problems really matter, because even if all the details were true, or at least believable, the romance would still be a gratuitous add-on to the main storyline. The sappy love story is not only irrelevant, but it slows the story down to a crawl for no good reason.

Oh, by the way, the story does try to explain that whole wacky "bathing in blood" thing. According to the movie, people actually witnessed it - only to determine later that the liquid was simply water which had been turned red by some herbs. According to most historians, this is a needless bit of revisionism because the blood baths never occurred in the first place. Why didn't the auteur use the forum of this revisionist script to show that the baths were entirely fictional, as is now believed? Because the bathing scenes were necessary to get Anna Friel naked.

Far be it from me to question the merit of that!

The wild tone shifts and overall offbeat presentation are not helped by the fact that some of the supporting actors have a dubious grasp of the English language and, for that matter, the craft of acting. On the other hand, the period imagery looks great: elegant balls, bleak battlefields, lusty wenches, picturesque bucolic views, flashing swords, imposing castles, and ubiquitous flickering candles. I have no idea whether it is all authentic, but my guess is that it is not, based upon the existence of roller-skating monks. Accurate or not, it looks terrific, except for some cheap CGI effects in a few scattered scenes. The outdoor cinematography is especially impressive. Some of the pastoral still-lifes are so gorgeous that you could use prints of them as backgrounds for your desktop. Unfortunately, those beautiful images should have gone straight-to-jigsaw-puzzle because the script is utterly trivial, and the film lasts two and a quarter hours with no apparent artistic reason to exist.

Nor is there an economic reason. Frankly, one has to wonder whom the auteur had pictured in his ideal audience. Would the people who relate to the explicit blood and gore also enjoy the sappy love story, and vice-versa? Would the people who admire a skeptical approach to legendary history also approve of superseding a silly legend with a sillier one? Although Bathory is quite competent in some respects, I am having difficulty picturing the person who would enjoy this film.

Awaiting DVD information









There are no English-language reviews online.






6.6 IMDB summary (of 10)






It grossed $3.5 million in the Czech Republic (the director is a Czech). I can't find a record of other theatrical runs.







Nudity from:

  • Anna Friel
  • Sandra Pogadova
  • Michaela Drotorova
  • Hanna Vagnerova
  • various others uncredited






Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


It is an odd movie that deliberately balances old-myth-busting with new-myth-creating. It has many elements which are quite competent, but I can't imagine who the target audience might be.